Washington County is the second most populated county in Oregon with over 600,000 residents. Covering an area of 727 square miles, it is one of the three counties making up the Portland Metropolitan Area. Washington County is one of the most diverse in the state and continues to experience more growth in racially and ethnically diverse communities.
Washington County’s mission is to provide excellent and cost-effective services that support healthy, peaceful, safe and sustainable communities; and encourage meaningful participation in community activities and County governance. To help meet these challenges, the County launched its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiative, a two-to-five-year process to deliver equitable outcomes throughout the County’s programs, budgets, decision-making and service delivery.The County’s DEI initiative is propelled by previous work by community advocates and partner organizations who have contributed to Washington County’s awareness of disparate outcomes, particularly along racial and ethnic lines, that have long existed within the County.
In 2016, the Coalition of Communities of Color launched a research project to create a proactive effort to bring racial justice toWashington County so that every community flourishes. In 2018, the Coalition released its extensive report, “Leading with Race:Research Justice in Washington County,” which details: the lived experiences of eight communities of color and ethnic groups inWashington County, data snapshots of four jurisdictions within the County that identify key socio-economic outcomes for communities of color living in those cities, and a Call to Action that implores readers to take recommended actions based on the findings in this report.
Previous work by County staff and leadership also contribute to this important work. In 2018, the County Administrative Office(CAO) convened a small group of staff (DEI Think Tank) tasked with identifying strategies to develop a more diverse workforce and create a more inclusive organizational culture, with a focus on the County’s human resources and procurement programs and systems. This work resulted in several recommendations which the Washington County Board of Commissioners accepted onMarch 19, 2019. Both the Coalition and the Think Tank recommended that the County create and implement the DEI initiative with methods focused on operationalizing racial equity across the County.
In addition to internal, ongoing staff-led equity work, the Board of Commissioners has begun working with a DEI consulting firm to enrich their leadership capacity and provide technical assistance for creating a county-wide equity resolution. CountyAdministration also approved the creation of the County’s first-ever staff Equity Committee convened in September 2019 to begin providing recommendations to County leaders about DEI needs and strategies.
As providers of vital public services, Washington County’s charge is to know, respect, reflect and serve the diverse people ofWashington County. Critical to that effort is a clear and honest assessment of our internal culture and a commitment to continuous improvement regarding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within our organizational structure.